July 30, 2020
Vidya Balan puts in a blazing performance as the eponymous Indian maths genius in Anu Menon’s characterful feminist life story
Shakuntala Devi review – spirited biopic of a mathematical genius
In recent years, the Hindi film mainstream has become more proactive about telling the stories of notable Women. This new one follows on the heels of last October’s crowdpleasing Saand Ki Aankh, which centred on sharpshooting sisters-in-law, but explores with far greater force its subject’s idiosyncrasies. What results is a biopic with genuine character.
The feats described here are mental: the eponymous heroine, Shakuntala Devi (Vidya Balan), was a phenomenal, Guinness World Records-noted mathematician who performed for many decades in the 20th century under the stage name the Human Computer. Director Anu Menon approaches her, however, from the unusual angle of Devi’s daughter, Anu (Sanya Malhotra), first seen marching into a London lawyers’ chambers in 2001 to initiate criminal proceedings against mum for failing to provide for her. While the case is pending, the thoughtful script (by Menon, Nayanika Mahtani and Ishita Moitra) fills in the brainiac’s backstory.
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